Tag Archives: writing

Whoda thunk…

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Not me! I never even though Mugabe would die! But resign!! No way did I ever think I’d live to see that day.

This week has certainly seen a few firsts for me…the biggest one – I joined a march and walked through Bulawayo’s streets in the hope that I could effect change here. It was an awesome experience, although that was nothing like the party when it was announced that Mugabe had resigned.

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This photo was taken from the top of my bakkie! I jumped down and joined in at the back! Im a very scared of crowds.

On the right (out of the photo) is Bulawayo’s main police station and we all had great fun just marching right past them! They have been the bane of our lives recently, setting road blocks up all over the place and fining us for imaginary infringements.

What a wonderful day it was too – the sun was shining and that flamboyant tree, just made this pic for me!

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This pic is taken along the street named after the gent up there…Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo

He is a hero in these parts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joshua_Nkomo

This is the second statue erected in his likeness. Unbelievably, the first one was made by the North Koreans! What a slap in the face for the Ndebele people here in Matabeleland, who tore it down before the government even got close to erecting it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gukurahundi

We stood about under this monument for a while and then moved along, past the dreaded CIO buildings. We all paused for a moment, to remember the many people who have disappeared, never to be seen again. Many went into this building and never came out.

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Everyone was out there, even small children.

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I walked beside a very elderly lady for a while, helped carry a kid while his dad waved the national flag. The flag, that until then, we were banned from carrying! Seems crazy – that citizens could be banned from waving their National flag!

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So this morning, after celebrations that lasted well into the night, we all woke up to a new dispensation. None of us know what it will bring, but we all know, the last 37 years under Mugabe have been hell.

Please read my books:

Click here, to download Silk Threads from Amazon

Silk Threads

Click here to download A Pale

A Pale

Please post comments on the books here on my blog, or at Amazon.

You can email me at:

forfrankiekay@gmail.com

I love fan mail and discussing my books via email, so please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Silk Threads is free on Smashwords… please download a copy of Silk Threads  here:

Silk Threads

Reckless Gambol, a Silk Threads vignette can be downloaded here:

RG2.

And a copy of Jack and Jill here

Jack and Jill a short story

Please leave a comment on Smashwords

 

 

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To describe, or not to describe…

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When I wrote Silk Threads, I had no preconceived ideas about the setting, because I mostly wanted to write about a person with Aspergers Syndrome.  Obviously the book had to be set somewhere and since hardly anyone knows where Bulawayo is…

However, that in itself creates a problem. Things that are obvious to me, views I see every day, are not so to a foreigner. Take the blue skies! Most days, here in Bulawayo, we have blue skies. Did I mention that, even once, in any of my books? I know I mentioned the heat in October, because even residents notice that!

Another thing I didn’t consider and now, (reading books about ‘how to write books!’)  I’m told is crucial, is my ‘Target Audience!’ Am I trying to sell Silk Threads worldwide, or to people who come from Southern Africa? (I sure don’t have to tell THEM about the sunny skies.) Several people have mentioned that I avoid descriptions and its true, I’d rather the reader created their own imagery. Who cares what the inside of the Academy of Music looks like?All the reader need know, is that it was private!

Below is a picture taken in the Matopos.

Matopos

Anyone who has lived in Matabeleland has been there. I’m guessing, if they had to wade through me trying to describe the Matopos they would certainly put the book down. But how do I describe to a foreigner what the Matopos is like? How do I describe the massive domes, the balancing rocks and that amazing ‘feel,’ the almost magical atmosphere? But I must, because most foreigners have never even heard of the place. At the same time, I must not lose my local audience too!

A picture saves a thousand words! I wish I could add photographs into my books. I’ve tried to come up with similies to describe Matopos! “Rocks split by a giant cleaver…” “Giant boulders strewn by an angry god…” Whatever the descriptive words, they include giant, huge, boulders…But how giant?Matopos

I’ve left the vehicle and person in this photo because it gives some idea how big (and these are relatively small, as Matopos goes) the boulders are.

This is the same ‘kopjie,’ without the vehicle.

Matopos

I’m guessing people in cities judge sizes by the buildings around them! Take this photograph below:

Matopos

How many fifty story buildings would fit into this one? Could I possibly fit a building into such a rural setting, surely the mental image just doesn’t fit? If I said it’s twenty square miles around would that mean anything? Perhaps I should say, this boulder would fit into the lower part of Manhattan from such and such a street…

Another thing I learned from reading books about how to write books, is this ‘genre’ issue…did you know, a ‘Romance’ has to fit a certain formula! It has to have a ‘happy-ever-after’ ending! I guess in our modern world, it can be about a gay couple….so where does Silk Threads fit? Without an obvious ‘hero’ and the ‘romance’ probably unresolved, where does it fit? I thought it was what I call drama until I discovered that drama refers to plays!  How about Saga? Well its long enough!

This morning I noticed a review of  Silk Threads on Amazon! (It was posted ages ago. Ooops!!!) I don’t visit the site very often since I hardly sell any books there. Strangely, Amazon allowed me to reply to his comment! (Last time I tried, I was refused entry as I didn’t have an account??? Duh – so writing a book and putting it on Amazon doesn’t warrant an account?)
Anyway, this is what he said:

I haven’t finished reading the book. From the portion I’ve read so far I think the author is an excellent writer. I have no problem at all with the sex. I’ve read very good erotic literature that is far more explicit than this. I have a minor problem with the plot premise. It’s about a search for a person that has spanned the globe for many many years and now the search has decided to concentrate on the area from which the person originated. Really? Did I miss something? You’re looking for a person and look everywhere on the planet but ‘home’ and now decide to look there? I don’t get it. Not at all logical to me.

Why can’t I finish the book? For me as a guy, ultimately, the book strikes me as a romance novel and for my own personal tastes I have zero interest in romance novels. That is my preference and not a fault with the author. I tried to read one other ‘new author’s’ book and had the same experience. (Though I didn’t think that other book was well written.) I’m sure some can argue this book is different but the periods of Svengali/Pygmalion transformation seemed too long and slow and didn’t appeal to me.

I encourage the author to keep writing. There is a huge audience for this type of good work IMO. I am just not that audience.

It didn’t occur to me, that a foreigner wouldn’t know, that people who left Zimbabwe, in the 1980’s didn’t return! For me, it was obvious Lisa wasn’t in Zimbabwe. She left in 1988 and why would she return, with the country going downhill fast? Inflation of the currency, corruption at high levels of government, currency controls! With European parents and plenty of money to spend, why would she remain in a dump like Bulawayo? And anyway, if she did, someone would know her, Bulawayo is a small place!

Now, with the immediacy of the internet, I not only get to identify that a United States reader doesn’t know that many whites were unprepared to remain in a post-Independent Zimbabwe, but that all my editing of the first part was still inadequate! (For the male readers!)

Of course, with e-books, I can easily change it! Tweek it with a few well chosen words and re-publish. It will only take a minute or two! I won’t change ‘Jack and Jill’ – I’m terrified of losing the anger I felt when I wrote it – maybe one day Il get round to editing it!

What is great, nowadays, are the discussions you can have with your audience. I love it when someone contacts me and we exchange emails about my characters or my plot! And how nice is this guy who hasn’t even finished the book to write such a nice review… AND give me four stars! Its horrid when you see a two star rating pop up with no reasons why the writer didn’t like it. Was it shallow? Confusing? Boring?

As for his last sentence. I’ve decided that I have to get on with my life – writing is an all-consuming occupation. I get totally involved, to the exclusion of all else, and that isn’t really fair to family and clients! And anyway, I’m going to need all the spare time I have to continue with my studies! I have nearly finished with ‘African Cuckoo,’ its only the editing that is required and then I will pack in my pencil, (maybe just keep my hand in with short stories or funny things that occur to me.)

 

Click here, to download Silk Threads from Amazon

Silk Threads

Click here to download A Pale

A Pale

Please post comments on the books here on my blog, or at Amazon.

You can email me at:

forfrankiekay@gmail.com

I love fan mail and discussing my books via email, so please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Silk Threads is free on Smashwords… please download a copy of Silk Threads  here:

Silk Threads

Reckless Gambol, a Silk Threads vignette can be downloaded here:

RG2.

And a copy of Jack and Jill here

Jack and Jill a short story

Please leave a comment on Smashwords

Do you ever wonder…?

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If people who cuss when driving on the highway, all alone in the car, know how stupid they look?

Recently, when visiting South Africa I invited my kids to see the Lipizzaner horses – Yup that is what happens in old age, when your kids grow up and leave home – you invite them to the Lipizzaner show, and worse, they say, “OK mum…”

We were staying in Vereeniging which is about 100km from Johannesburg and to get to where the kids live, I skirt Soweto,  pass Baragwanath Hospital and Southgate Mall!

Hey, it makes me feel at home, among the mini buses and litter.

Now, since Jeremy Clarkson has been booted, I have to tell you about my car myself! To start with, it’s big. Four wheel drive, with a three litre, inter-cooled, turbo diesel engine, it guzzles juice. It has wheels like, nine inches wide and it can go for 1600km without the need for a stop at the filling station. It’s called a Vigo and you don’t get them in SA, so every hairy Boer who ever claps eyes on it HAS to ask if they can play with the little back door that opens the wrong way. We buy them here in Zim instead of a double cab, so that every policeman along the road doesn’t ask for a lift – rather than squash into the jump seat, they rather wait for a double cab to come along!

Toyota Hilux Vigo

(See the little door? Its that half size one, behind the passenger door – and it opens backwards!)

These Toyota Vigo’s are imported by my brother in law from Thailand…

ADVERT ALERT – if any of you rich aid organisations out there are reading this blog and looking for a brilliant vehicle, that has the right mix of luxury and off road capability, you can get one from my brother in law in Bulawayo at the “Toy Shop!” Not only does he provide excellent ‘after purchase service’ he is SO cute – so even if you are not an aid organisation and just want a hunky mechanic to discuss anything at all about your car…visit the Toy Shop.

Sorry about that – where was I? Oh yes…my brother in law…

no, my car…

NO – people swearing when they are totally and completely alone, driving along the highway.

Leaving Soweto behind me, I hit the Western Bypass on the N1 and let me tell you, on a Sunday morning before nine, it’s a magic road. Widened and completely re-surfaced  to handle the vast traffic expected for the World Cup Soccer 2010, it is four lanes of driving bliss and yes, it’s not hard for my speed to creep. I wasn’t late, I don’t have that excuse, I just can’t resist that open road, gently rolling hills and awesome curves. A concrete wall about a meter and a half high, separates the incoming and outgoing lanes, ensuring that when there is an accident, you have to wait the obligatory four hours for the traffic to clear.

I got into the outside lane, and putting foot flat, admired the Florida Hills on my left, stared down my nose at the tiny pink match-box houses and….all in a heart stopping second, my hands vibrated on the steering wheel and an indescribable noise assaulted my ears. For a gut wrenching moment, I thought I was back in the Rhodesian Bush War, the sound of incoming AK-47 bullets, and the return fire from the MAG on the gun turret of the convoy vehicle. Or perhaps my gear box had come undone from its mountings and was whizzing around and around on the prop shaft, or maybe a guy on a jackhammer in the back seat?

No. It was simply those nine inch wide tyres I was boasting about earlier. They had crossed over a rumble strip cunningly disguised/included in the white line demarcating the extreme right of the road. Its put there to give sleepy drivers – about to crash into the wall – that last minute wake up call. Well, it works. It woke me up.

And I know, that somewhere up there in the bright blue afterlife is a Dominie chuckling and chalking another one up to the South African Roads Department. Another foreigner – yelling praises to the Lord on a bright sunny Sunday morning!

OK – so I cussed. All alone in the car and without thought to how stupid I looked, I cussed out loud. And no, I’m not going to repeat my  cuss words, or I will have to move this post to my bad language page!

But I can tell you WHO I cussed:

Zuma!

After all, when in Rome, do as the Romans do!

I made it to the Lipizzaner show:

LipizzanerLipizzaner Lipizzaner Lipizzaner

 

Of course, the part I really enjoyed was meeting the horses later at the stables behind the arena….

Lipizzaner Lipizzaner

 

Please have a look at my books.

Click here, to download Silk Threads from Amazon

Silk Threads

Click here to download A Pale

A Pale

Please post comments on the books here on my blog, or at Amazon.

You can email me at:

forfrankiekay@gmail.com

I love fan mail and discussing my books via email, so please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Silk Threads is free on Smashwords… please download a copy of Silk Threads  here:

Silk Threads

Reckless Gambol, a Silk Threads vignette can be downloaded here:

RG2.

And a copy of Jack and Jill here

Jack and Jill a short story

Please leave a comment on Smashwords

 

Engage brain before mouth…

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‘Think before you speak.’ I hate that line. ‘Engage brain before mouth,’ is phrase I had continually thrown at me. As a child, I was always told to do that and couldn’t. But after our recent visit to South Africa when we stayed with my brother in law (B-I-L) in Vereeniging, I can understand why it was drummed into my head.

Vereeniging, about 80km South of Johannesburg, is about the size of Bulawayo, and suits us just fine. Also, B-I-L has a plot out of town, and that also suits me fine. I find the noise in Johannesburg tiring and unpleasant.

B-I-L house in Vereeniging

BIL plays golf at the local course every Saturday, partnered by the same guy every week. They own a share of a ‘golf estate’ in Bela Bela about 250km away and go there regularly to play.

Clubhouse at Zebula Golf Estate

Clubhouse at Zebula Golf Estate

Zebula Golf course

Zebula Golf course

A week or so after we arrived, his partner invited him to pay at Legends (golf course) which is another couple of hours the other side of Bela Bela. The plan was to spend the night at Bela Bela  and drive to Legends in the morning.

Wow, the lengths people will go to, to clout a little ball around!

BIL wasn’t over-enthralled by the whole idea. Perhaps he thought he shouldn’t desert his visitors? Or perhaps he had a bad feeling. In the end, however, he went, his golf partner traveling with him in his car…or bus rather. It’s a nice vehicle, if rather soft – B-I-L lent it to us last year to tour around South Africa.

Bus under a disused railway bridge

Bus under a disused railway bridge

Very happy to have the house to ourselves, we gaily waved him goodbye and set about doing all the things we weren’t supposed to do: ate his chocolate, and other fancy food, walked around the house naked and had wild monkey sex.

Pretty early the following morning, I was woken by a phone call, from him. Now here is a big surprise, he is such a scrooge, that he rarely uses the phone. In fact, he is such a scrooge, that he doesn’t even keep shampoo in his shower – he uses the shampoo at the golf course!

He opened with the line, “I’ve got a disaster here…A serious disaster.” Now this, is from a guy who, midwinter in Siberia, may say, “It’s a little chilly here,” or “That’s somewhat pricey…” about a 120 million rand holiday home. What could constitute a disaster? ….he’s had to spend money on breakfast, perhaps? No seriously, I imagined an accident – dead bodies strewn all over the place, or one of those mass murders you hear about so often in South Africa. My stomach dropped, I got a huge adrenaline rush. Disaster scenario’s raced through my mind. Maybe it was one of my kids – also in an accident. Or maybe family…

No, his disaster was simply that his car had broken down about 10km from Bela Bela (Warmbaths in the old days!) That’s it. No accident, no mangled bodies. His golf mates had caught a lift to Legends for their round and would see him later in Bela Bela. I flip into ‘fix it’ mode – I’m good at that. Phone around for a tow vehicle, organise the Vito to be towed to Bela Bela. Not long after, he calls to say his diesel tank (made of plastic) flexed when a rock hit it, and bashed into the fuel pump. It was totally shattered and the replacement part would take two days to get there.

Now I couldn’t possibly leave him sitting in Bela Bela all day, so I offer to drive down, keep him company until his partner arrived. Take photos of the scenery. I mean, I can easily drive through Johannesburg traffic at lunch time, hell, I even know where I’m going!

Traveling north along the N1 the Bela Bela off-ramp directly ahead, I get a whatsapp from him. This is it verbatim: “I’m drowning my sorrows at Panarotti’s opposite the Game…” I stare at the screen in horror and think, “brilliant. He is sloshed. Marvelous. That’s all I need.”

I don’t do alcohol in any form. At all. Nada. I don’t drink it, or buy it, or associate with legless people. And now I not only have to collect B-I-L from this Panarotti place, but negotiate him into my car and….oh boy. I imagined going into some dark dive, with any number of soaks propping up the bar counter, the smell of smoke and old timers and alcohol all pervading…I imagined oozing a loud, giggling B-I-L off a bar stool and guiding him outside…eeuw

My first thought was just to go up the off-ramp, turn right instead of left to Bela Bela, and just go back south! My second – I keep on driving North to Zimbabwe! That would be a solution!

I soon discover, Panarotti is a pizza place and no alcohol is served there. Not used to the heat in Bela Bela, B-I-L had to drown his sorrows with iced tea! Pity he didn’t ‘engage brain before he opened his mouth!’

So next time people, when you have a disaster such as B-I-L’s, please first think to say something like, “Everything is fine, but I have a disaster here…” And remember drowning your sorrows can have only one meaning!

What an expensive round of (non) golf!

I took some pics around Bela Bela. They weren’t great which is strange, because the area is SO African. Vast and endless and blue. On the way back to Zimbabwe we stayed over at Zebula – the photos are on my photoblog here:

This is B-I-L’s house at Zebula:

B-I-L's house at Zebula

B-I-L’s house at Zebula

Please have a look at my books.

Click here, to download Silk Threads from Amazon

Silk Threads

Click here to download A Pale

A Pale

Please post comments on the books here on my blog, or at Amazon.

You can email me at:

forfrankiekay@gmail.com

I love fan mail and discussing my books via email, so please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Silk Threads is free on Smashwords… please download a copy of Silk Threads  here:

Silk Threads

Reckless Gambol, a Silk Threads vignette can be downloaded here:

RG2.

And a copy of Jack and Jill here

Jack and Jill a short story

Please leave a comment on Smashwords

Bulawayo…

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…is in Zimbabwe, which is in the middle of Africa!

“Skies” or “City of Kings” are nick names given to our hometown! “Skies,” because of the numbers of clear blue days we get here a year and “City of Kings”….well need I say more!

A sleepy, well planned town, Bulawayo grew slower than it’s colonial planners thought possible. As a consequence, we have not seeped at the edges like many other African cities! We have no shanty towns, our parks and other designated green areas remain intact, our wide streets unclogged with traffic.

Flamboyant trees

 

Centenary Park, BulawayoCentenary Park Centenary Park Centenary park

My book, Silk Threads is based in Bulawayo and Johannesburg, and I wanted to say SO much more about my hometown. I didn’t fit it all in so I’ll have to write many more books!

I maintain a blog: https://frankiekayfotos.wordpress.com  where I post photo’s of Bulawayo and the surrounding areas. Please have a look, the countryside is unique and very beautiful.

Now…to me, and a day in my life here in Bulawayo. I live in Suburbs, in one of the very first houses built in colonial Bulawayo. The streets are laid out in even bocks, lined with Jacaranda trees. Typically built on about an acre, we even have the remnants of stables for horses – now converted to servant’s quarters, or what is locally called a ‘kya.’

This is a pic of the front of our house:

Park Road

 

We live here with several people and lots of animals. The people first: my husband (a geophysicist,) his gang of workers and Pio, who doesn’t work for us, only lives with us. His story is on my writing blog here!

 

This is Brighton, our gardener together with Dusty (his favourite of our dogs!) and the survey team marking the spot for a borehole.

Brighton and DustySurvey gangOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbove is Fa – our handyman when he isn’t surveying for water.

 

We also have dogs, cats, chickens (occasionally a horse, passing through!)

2014-11-04 Dogs Pk RdI love cats…passed and present!

https://frankiekay.wordpress.com/?s=last+post this is a story about Twinks, our little orphan kitten. https://frankiekay.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/vikki/ is a story written by Vikki.

I have written about Bella, pictured below here:

Bella

 

https://frankiekay.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/rip-scar-2/

and, being Africa, a host of wild life is also to be found in our home: insects, spiders, scorpions, lizards and of course birds. Every morning, I wake to the bird songs and have recently planted a line of peach trees outside our window for the fruit eaters among them.

Birds at Pk Rd

This crested barbet comes to our window and beats his reflection up…I took this pic through the glass!

Crested Barbet

I help children who can’t read, or have trouble with Maths or are Aspergers sufferers. This is the room I use:

Park RoadMakes it all much more homely than a classroom!

Shopping Centres….both ends of town!    The lower pic is an upmarket shopping centre, this one  is a bus terminus where you can buy anything from frozen fish, to maize meal; to axes, old drums and second hand tyres!

Rnkini

Shops

 

There is too much for me to fit into one blog post – please browse around my photoblog – and most importantly, my writing blog!

I wrote Silk Threads to introduce people to Aspergers Syndrome through my character Lisa. I thought a novel would be better than a dry text book.

Click here, to download Silk Threads from Amazon

Silk Threads

Click here to download A Pale

A Pale

Please post comments on the books here on my blog, or at Amazon.

You can email me at:

forfrankiekay@gmail.com

I love fan mail and discussing my books via email, so please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Silk Threads is free on Smashwords… please download a copy of Silk Threads  here:

Silk Threads

Reckless Gambol, a Silk Threads vignette can be downloaded here:

RG2.

And a copy of Jack and Jill here

Jack and Jill a short story

Please leave a comment on Smashwords

 

Hello…I’m Aspie…

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I want to talk to you; I really do. I want to join in, play on the beach, like everyone else.

I don’t know what I look like to you. What should I look like? Is this OK? Do I look “normal?”

I'm Aspie

 

I want to enjoy myself – I just don’t really know how…

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.

Next time someone looks away when you are speaking to them, doesn’t make eye contact, before you think “rude,”  STOP; ask yourself why. Why does he look away?

Before you again say to a child “look at me” pointing at your eyes, STOP and ask yourself if he really can look at you. If it were easy, he would make eye contact.

People with “Higher Functioning Autism” or Aspergers  (I call them Aspies) are real people inside that mask you see. Some are brash or aggressive, others pompous; some overly polite, in an attempt to negotiate their way around a world they often don’t understand…can’t fit into.

There are as many different kinds of “Aspies” out there as there are “Higher Functioning Autistics” so I can’t list manifestations…but being married into a family of them, I know how difficult their lives can be.

Lisa, (in my novel, Silk Threads) is an Aspie. It was hard to describe her, because she doesn’t say much, hardly moves her body to express herself…I used her diaries to show that she was a very different person hidden behind her rather unattractive exterior.

I won’t say any more about Aspies, or this post will become boring – there is plenty of information on the net, or better still, read my novel, Silk Threads…its much more fun than wikipedia!

You can buy Silk Threads for kindle on Amazon.com here: (P.S. – PLEEEZ post a review!)

Amazon UK here:

Or if you are in Canada…here:

 

The unabridged version of Silk Threads is available on Smashwords for FREE…please download a copy  here:

Silk Threads

And a copy of Jack and Jill here (also free)

Jack and Jill a short story

Please leave a comment on Smashwords

What’s in a name…?

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What’s in a name…?

What does one take to the old age home? Pardon me: retirement village!

I had no idea. I asked my daughter. She looked around vaguely, shrugged and said, “I don’t know Mother. Not much. It’s furnished.”
My oldest friend and soon to be neighbour was much clearer.
“Memories, Sybil. Memories,” she said. “Your photos, favourite books, small knick-knacks. Anything that triggers a memory; good or bad. As we get older, we need those little reminders.”
I took her at her word; wandered around the house touching objects, testing if they were special. I chose a painting because it reminded me of a holiday in the Karoo, a glass figurine from Venice. All the photograph albums.
“What about the box of photos?” Dorelle asked. “The rejects that never made it into the albums.”
We finally hunted them down in the store room off the pantry, stacked high up on a shelf. We took them up to the lounge and sat together like schoolgirls, picking through them at random, laughing at some frowning at others, straining to remember why I’d taken them.
“Yes, bring them,” Dorelle said hunching over the box. “We will have plenty of time to work out who all the people were, boring neighbours with our stories.” She withdrew one from the box.
“Tell me about this one?” she said.
Frowning, I peered at the photo she held in her hand. It was old and faded, the edges curled; purple and pink, the image very hazy. A woman, walking away from an aeroplane, carrying a huge teddy bear. It wasn’t a posed picture.
“It’s definitely you. That’s your Teddy Bear.”
She was right. It was me, sporting a beehive hairstyle and the high, high shoes that gave me such bunions, toting my giant pink teddy bear. Where on earth was this photograph taken? I could see no buildings in the background to help me identify the airport. No trees, mountains or any other features.
I shut my eyes, trying to remember back when I could wear that sculpted outfit. It pushed my front up and cut off mid thigh. I snatched at a glimmer of a memory. Shopping for shoes. Choosing a conservative heel, only three inches, but I remember conceding, an elegant thin one with a pointy toe. I realised the purple-pink, brown haze wasn’t from the age of the photo. It had really looked like that and sitting in my air-conditioned lounge I experienced a hot blast; felt my skin prickle.
“Botswana. The photograph was taken in Botswana,” I said.
Dorelle glanced at me and settled back in the sofa.
“Holiday?” she asked in that tone she has when she intends to hear every embarrassing detail.
“Hitching Post.”
Dorelle was silent for a beat. Then she barked out a laugh.
I shrugged. What a disaster. The worst six weeks of my life. How could I forget?
“I was approaching thirty, Dorelle. I wanted to settle down. I didn’t want what I saw my friends do: get married, remain in the rat race. Work while raising children. I wanted to take my time, loaf around and look after them myself. I spent a weekend on a farm in the Magalies and I decided I would like to marry a farmer. It seemed a slow life, plenty of spare time.” Dorelle’s immaculate eyebrows disappeared into her fringe, but she said nothing.
“So I put an advert into the ‘Hitching Post’ in the Farmer’s Weekly.”
Dorellle pushed her hand against her mouth, biting at her knuckles.
“A guy answered. We corresponded for some time and I flew out to Botswana.” Holding my hands up in surrender I added, “Hey, I had it all sorted. I had a list of things I wanted.”
I counted on my fingers.
“I wanted him to have a house. A car, and live on a farm. And this guy wrote so enthusiastically about the farm, his work. He told me how beautiful it was: the acacia woodland, the miles and miles of open farmland.
“How was I to know that he meant thorn trees and nothing but barren dust, three-sixty? And do you know, Dorelle he really did like that; saw something beautiful in that endless, brown nothingness.
I thought all farms had green fields and white fences with sheep and cattle. I hardly saw cattle, other than when they were collected up. Then they made more dust; workers whistling and waving their arms about, cracking huge whips. I only went once; stayed in the car, swatting the flies.”
“At least he had a car?” Dorelle said and I pulled a face.
I tapped the photograph. “Shortly after he took this, he took me out to the car park. I remember looking around, and the only car was a clapped out thing, rusting along the doors, dust all over it. I think it was once upon a time a cream colour. Can you believe that? This was the car he had raved about,” I heard my voice rising. “The car he said could go anywhere and was the most comfortable one he knew for ‘the conditions.’” I made air speech-marks. “It would go forever, he said. Bloody looked like it had been going forever,” I muttered, still furious after forty years.
Sitting on my stylish sofa, I remember the urge I had to walk back into the air-conditioned airport; away from the dry, shimmering heat, that claptrap land-cruiser and the taciturn man carrying my suitcase.
“There wasn’t enough room in the front for my luggage. He just dumped it in the back; opened the door for me.”
“Well,” said Dorelle, her voice unsteady. “At least he had manners.”
“No. The door didn’t open unless you picked it up and yanked.” I said, and she laughed. “And then when it drove on the sand, because there is nothing in Botswana except sand and dust and thorns, it sort of swam along and the guy had to wrestle it to stay on the road. So we didn’t say much on the way to the farm.”
“What was his name?” Dorelle asked.
I pressed my fingers against my forehead digging deep, but I couldn’t remember. It was something odd; something exotic. Some sort of a beautiful animal. A bird I think… but a beautiful bird. With beautiful plumage. A bird that shows off with elaborate displays to attract a mate. I remember thinking a brown man, wearing khaki and a dirty old hat, shouldn’t have a name like that. He used conservative language, and only made the minimum effort to please. He didn’t posture, or show off. Or dress up.
“His first name was common, like John or Harry. But his surname wasn’t. Something like Parrot, or Swann. Partridge perhaps.” I shook my head, striving for recollection.
“Maybe it will come to you,” Dorelle said dismissively. “The house, Sybil. Tell me about the house.”
“It wasn’t painted white, it didn’t have a cute gable and no white fences anywhere,” I said sourly. “It had a veranda right around it with broken mesh that let in every creepy crawly for miles around when he turned on the lights. And the lights, Dorelle, only paraffin lamps. Or candles.”
“Oh, how romantic!” she gushed and I scowled.
“Yes, I could light the candles, but not those lamps. The only time I tried, I broke a fingernail and nearly set my hair alight. You see, he would sit out on the veranda smoking and watching the sunset and I couldn’t join him because the mosquitoes attacked me. He would sit there, puffing away and not one of the little blighters would chew him.
“I was scared to move about the house in case I stood on a snake. I couldn’t walk around very easily anyway, because I didn’t take any flatties. The shortest heels I had were the three inch ones I bought especially for the trip. And the maid spent ages shining the cement floors until they were so slippery, walking on them was hell. She did all the housecleaning and there was a cook too. I was bored to tears, Dorelle. I had nothing to read except that stupid Farmer’s Weekly, but I didn’t want to lie in my room in the dark.
“You had your own room?”
I nodded. “He had manners, I’ll give him that much. Actually,” I added, “I had to get the action going. If I hadn’t, we would never have got round to doing anything…” I broke off and a flush came up my neck, spreading from my chest. Dorelle jumped at it.
“What?”
“Even that!” I said angrily. “I cozied up to him one evening, intending to move the relationship to the next level and he asked me if I had the clap!”
Delighted, Dorelle leaned back against the sofa, giggling uncontrollably.
“Yup. He said the last girl he had been with had given him a dose, and he didn’t want it to happen again.”
“Oh, Sybil,” Dorelle moaned, dabbing at her dark mascara. “What a Philistine,” she added and I finally grinned at her. It was funny. Now. Forty years later; three husbands and several lovers ago.
“But don’t worry, for all his protestations, he was a dog after all. Like most men.
“We were invited by our neighbour for a braai. And let me tell you, it was not just down the road or anything. Getting there was sort of like the Dakar Rally. We left early, just after three and arrived after dark. There were a few other people there, and we all stood about talking…and our hostess positively drooled all over him. I can remember being furious. So much for Mr Polite Guy. On the way home, he had some BS story about how he usually didn’t visit them because she had the hots for him and he was principled and blah de blah…I got so cross with him…he told me that I should either shut up or walk. Can you imagine that?”
“So you got out and walked?”
I nodded.
“In your high heels.”
I nodded again and she sniffed into her hankie.
“He just drove off. Thank goodness his man jumped off the back.
“The only part of the entire visit I really enjoyed was listening to the guy crap all over his boss the next day; moaning about how he was not employed to chop leaves for me to walk on.”
Puzzled, Dorelle looked a question.
“He cut bushes and laid them down on the ground to protect my bare feet from the stones.” I explained and she grinned.
“At least someone had manners!”
“I’m not so sure about that,” I said. “When his boss muttered something like, it was either that, or explaining things “the African Way…” his man snorted and then spat, a long, brown disgusting spray and walked away.” I shuddered.
“I flew back to Jo’burg a few days later and not long after, I met Denzil.”
“You see,” said Dorelle. “You need to have something to jog your memory. Don’t forget to pack that box.” She hiccuped again and made another unsuccessful attempt at clearing her make-up.
“What a great story, Sibyl,” she said standing.

Packing the photographs back into the box, I realised the others he had taken during that six weeks must be in there somewhere. I scrabbled about, pulling one out.
Me, standing on the steps leading to the veranda. Another of me under a huge thorn tree near the gate.
Peering closer, I saw a dark blob on one side, high up in the branches. A bird had nested there, I remember; tall brown and scrappy, making its messy nest from thorns. Staring down at the photograph, I finally remembered the man’s name.

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Peacock. John Peacock

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Peacock
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